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Was the "Last Supper" the Passover Meal?

Was the "Last Supper" the Passover Meal?

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Published by Bryan T. Huie
This article explains that the "Last Supper" Yeshua ate with his disciples on the night before his crucifixion was not the annual Passover meal.
This article explains that the "Last Supper" Yeshua ate with his disciples on the night before his crucifixion was not the annual Passover meal.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Bryan T. Huie on Jun 28, 2009
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S
WAS THE "LAST SUPPER" THE PASSOVER MEAL?
everal conflicting opinions exist regarding the meal that took place on the last night of Christ's life. Many people believethat Yeshua ate a Passover meal with his disciples, as the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke appear toindicate. Others disagree, pointing to John's Gospel, which clearly shows that this "last supper" occurred
before
the Passover feast. Is there a way to reconcile the two differing accounts? Can both accounts be correct?To fully understand this topic, let's examine the Gospel reports of Yeshua's final meal. First, we'll look at John's account of the"last supper." Many scholars believe that John wrote his Gospel late in the first century, long after the Synoptic Gospels had been written. By the time John wrote, Gentiles likely composed a significant portion of the Church.Probably because of the number of Gentile converts in the Church and the anti-Jewish bias that had begun to take root, John'sGospel is different from the Synoptic Gospels. John went to great lengths to emphasize Christ's heritage. He stressed thatYeshua was a Jew who routinely kept Jewish customs, including the observance of God's commanded feast days (Lev. 23).John refers to at least three Passovers during the ministry of Christ (John 2:13; 6:4; 19:14), including his final one. He alsomentions the Feast of Tabernacles, known by the Jews as
 Sukkot 
(John 7:2), the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, whichthe Jews called
 Hoshanah Rabbah
(John 7:37), and the Feast of Dedication, commonly known as
Chanukah
(John 10:22).Let's review the beginning of John's account of the "last supper," which is found in chapter 13 of his Gospel:
JOHN 13:1 Now
before the Feast of the Passover
, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He shoulddepart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to theend. 2 And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon,to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had comeforth from God, and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking atowel, He girded Himself about. 5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples'feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (
 NASU 
)
John shows that the "last supper" took place on the same night Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ (John 13:21-30). The first verse plainly states that this was "before the feast of the Passover," which lasts for seven days (from Nisan 15 through Nisan 21).John is obviously referring to the same night described by the other three Gospel writers (Matt. 26; Mark 14; Luke 22). Johngoes on to reiterate several times that these events took place
before
Passover. Clearly, the Passover meal traditionally eatenon the evening of Nisan 15 had not yet been observed.
JOHN 13:21 When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, "Mostassuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me. 26 . . . It is he to whom I shall give a piece of breadwhen I have dipped it." And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, "What you do, do quickly." 28But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judas hadthe money box, that Jesus had said to him, "
Buy those things we need for the Feast
," or that heshould give something to the poor. 30 Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately.And it was night. (
 NKJV 
)JOHN 18:28 Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium, and it was early morning. But theythemselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but
that they might eat the
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Passover
. (
 NKJV 
)JOHN 19:14 Now
it was the Preparation Day of the Passover
, and about the sixth hour. And he [
Pilate
]said to the Jews, "Behold your King!" (
 NKJV 
)JOHN 19:31 Therefore, because
it was the Preparation Day
, that the bodies should not remain on thecross on the
Sabbath
(for
that Sabbath was a high day
), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might bebroken, and that they might be taken away. (
 NKJV 
)JOHN 19:42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews'
Preparation Day
, for the tomb was nearby.(
 NKJV 
)
The Jews reckoned days from sunset to sunset. As you can see, John points out repeatedly that the "last supper," the betrayal byJudas, and Yeshua's trial and crucifixion all occurred
before
the Passover, on the Preparation Day. But exactly when was thePreparation Day?
The New Unger's Bible Dictionary
says that the Preparation Day for the Passover was from the evening (end) of Nisan 13until the evening (end) of Nisan 14 (p. 411). E.W. Bullinger, in Appendix 156 to
The Companion Bible
, states:"
Wednesday, Nisan 14th (commencing on Tuesday at sunset), was 'the preparation day', on which thecrucifixion took place
" (p. 180).As shown in John 19:31 above, the day following the Preparation Day was an annual high Sabbath, the First Day of Unleavened Bread, which fell annually on Nisan 15. God commanded the Israelites to observe this high Sabbath every year:
EXODUS 12:16 "
On the first day there shall be a holy convocation
, and on the seventh day there shallbe a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone musteat; that only may be prepared by you. 17 So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on thissame day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall
observe this day
throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance." (
 NKJV 
)LEVITICUS 23:6 "And on the
fifteenth day
of the same
month
[
Abib, later called Nisan
] is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD;
seven days you must eat unleavened bread
. 7
On the first day youshall have a holy convocation
; you shall do no customary work on it." (
 NKJV 
)
 Now let's examine the accounts of this event recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the Synoptic Gospels and compare themwith John's version.
MATTHEW 26:17
Now on the first
day 
of 
the Feast of 
the Unleavened Bread
the disciples came toJesus, saying to Him, "
Where
do You want us to
prepare
for You to eat the Passover?" 18 And He said,"Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, 'The Teacher says, "My time is at hand; I will keep thePassover at your house with My disciples."' 19 So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they
prepared the Passover
[
hetoimasan to pascha
]. 20 When evening had come, He sat down with the twelve.21 Now as they were eating, He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me." (
 NKJV 
)MARK 14:12
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover
lamb
, Hisdisciples said to Him, "
Where
do You want us to go and
prepare
, that You may eat the Passover?" 13And He sent out two of His disciples and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man will meet you carryinga pitcher of water; follow him. 14 Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says,"
Where is the guest room
in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' 15 Then he will show youa
large upper room
, furnished and prepared;
there make ready for us
." 16 So His disciples went out,and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they
prepared the Passover
[
hetoimasan to pascha
]. 17 In the evening He came with the twelve. 18 Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said,"Assuredly, I say to you,
one of you who eats with Me will betray Me
." (
 NKJV 
)LUKE 22:7
Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed
. 8 And Hesent Peter and John, saying, "Go and
prepare the Passover
for us, that we may eat." 9 So they said toHim, "Where do You want us to prepare?" 10 And He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered thecity, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. 11 Thenyou shall say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "
Where is the guest room
where Imay eat the Passover with My disciples?"' 12 Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room;
theremake ready
." 13 So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they
prepared thePassover
[
hetoimasan to pascha
]. 14 When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with
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Him. 15 Then He said to them, "
With fervent desire I have desired
[
epithumia epethumesa
] to eat thisPassover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in thekingdom of God." (
 NKJV 
)
First, let's note the timing of these events. Matthew says it was "the first of Unleavened Bread." On the surface, this appears tocontradict John's account, which plainly states that the "last supper" occurred before the Feast of Passover. However, Mark andLuke add an additional detail that helps clarify the time. Mark says it was "the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killedthe Passover"; Luke states it was "the day of Unleavened Bread when the Passover must be killed."The Bible tells us in Exodus 12:6 that the Passover lambs were to be killed "between the evenings" on the Nisan 14. The Jewshave traditionally interpreted "between the evenings" to mean "in the afternoon." For an in-depth discussion of this phrase,refer to "What Does 'Between the Evenings' Mean?" and "Exodus 12-When Was the First Passover?" The Jews at the time of Christ killed the Passover lambs on the afternoon of Nisan 14. In
The Wars of the Jews
, Josephusrecords that in the first century, the Passover lambs were slaughtered "
from the ninth hour till the eleventh
" (bk. 6, ch. 9,sec. 3), which corresponds to our 3:00-5:00 p.m.Obviously, the day Matthew and Mark call the "first day of Unleavened Bread" is the same day that John calls the "thePreparation Day of the Passover."
The New Unger's Bible Dictionary
says that the 14th of Nisan was "
called until theevening the preparation for the Passover 
" (p. 411). As shown below, all three Synoptic Gospels confirm that Yeshua wascrucified on the "Preparation Day," Nisan 14.
MATTHEW 27:62 On the next day [
Nisan 15
], which followed the
Day of Preparation
, the chief priests andPharisees gathered together to Pilate. (
 NKJV 
)MARK 15:42 Now when evening had come, because it was the
Preparation Day
, that is, the day before the[
high
] Sabbath, 15 Joseph of Arimathea . . . went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. (
 NKJV 
)LUKE 23:54 That day was the Preparation, and the [ high] Sabbath drew near. (
 NKJV 
)
Going back to the Synoptic accounts of the meal, Matthew and Mark show that the disciples came to Yeshua just as thePreparation Day (Nisan 14) was beginning, which would have been at sunset. They asked him
where
he wanted them to prepare to eat the Passover meal, which would occur the next night (see John 18:28 above). Luke records that in response totheir question, Yeshua instructed Peter and John how to find the place where they should prepare to eat the Passover on thenight of Nisan 15. He told them the owner of the house would show them a large furnished upper room. Mark and Luke bothstate that it was there,
in that room
, that they were to prepare for the Passover (Mark 14:15; Luke 22:12).As you can see from all three accounts (Matt. 26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7-9), the disciples waited until the
beginning of Nisan 14
to ask Christ
where
to prepare the Passover. If the time between sunset and dark on the 14th was the correct time toslay the Passover lambs, as some erroneously teach, why would they have waited so very late to question Christ about preparing for the meal? Or if the Passover meal would not take place for at least another 24 hours, why would they prepare for it
that evening
?In Jacob Neusner's translation of the Jewish
 Mishnah
, we can see why the disciples would have been concerned with preparing for the Passover that evening, even though it wouldn't be eaten until the next night.
PESAHIM 1:3
A.
R. Judah says, "They seek out [leaven] (1) on the night of the fourteenth, (2) on thefourteenth in the morning, and (3) at the time of removal."
B.
And sages say, "[If] one did not seek out[leaven] on the night of the fourteenth, he may seek it out (1) on the fourteenth.
C.
"If he did not seek itout on the fourteenth, let him seek it out (2) at the appointed time [11 a.m. to 12 noon on the fourteenth].
D.
"[If] he did not seek it out at the appointed time, let him seek it out (3) after the appointed time [tonightfall]." (p. 230,
The Mishnah: A New Translation
)
The New Unger's Bible Dictionary
confirms how the Jews prepared for the observance of the Passover:
On the evening of the 13th Nisan [
as that day ended and Nisan 14 began
], which, until that of the 14th, was called the
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